Why Is My Android Phone Slow Even With Good Specs?

Andy Betts 14-11-2017

As flagship Android phones become more competitive, and the differences between them seem to narrow, marketing teams throw more numbers and jargon at us to convince us of their products’ worth.


But it’s a mistake to judge phones purely by their specs Smartphone Specs For Dummies: What Should You Look For? More and more people are owning smartphones as they are becoming more capable of handling all our possible needs. Today's smartphones have as much processing power as full desktop computers less than a decade ago,... Read More . It’s no longer true to say that the best specs always mean the best device. Flagships might give you the nicest design, built from the most premium materials, but that’s all you can guarantee.

Here’s how to cut through the marketing hype, and discover why some phones are better (or worse) than they look on paper.


Processor specs are crammed with numbers, like the number of cores Is an Octa-Core Better than a Quad-Core? Not Always! Android Processors Explained More cores don't necessarily mean a faster processor. Read More or the clock speed, that show off how fast and powerful it is. In fact, putting an identical processor in two different phones will not result in identical performance.

There are too many other factors at play. The quality of the other components used, how well optimized the operating system is (each phone has its own build of Android How Android Differs Depending on the Hardware Manufacturer Not all Android devices are created equal. See how yours stands out from the crowd with our comprehensive guide. Read More ), and how the manufacturer has chosen to set up the processor. Some might prefer to tune it more for battery life at the expense of raw power, or vice versa.

And while it’s safe to say that a high-end processor is better than a mid-range one, that’s only guaranteed for models from the same generation. In some cases, a modern mid-range processor may outperform the flagship processor from a previous generation.


stop judging android phones by specifications

Let’s also consider the elephant in the room.

If you’ve ever compared your flagship Android phone to your friend’s iPhone and felt that the iPhone seemed faster, that’s because it is. Benchmark tests show that while the two are somewhat comparable in multi-core performance (for power hungry tasks like gaming and shooting high frame rate video), the iPhone is in a different league for single core performance. This covers everyday tasks like swiping, scrolling, and opening apps.


The amount of RAM in a current flagship phone ranges from 4GB to 8GB. Does that mean the 8GB model is twice as good? No.


Here’s the thing about RAM: it’s only of value when it’s being used. Free RAM is a waste of RAM.

If you’re using apps and games that require huge amounts of memory, then, yes, the performance will better than on the 4GB device. But those apps and games don’t exist on Android, so assuming you’re going to get better performance just because your phone has more RAM couldn’t be more wrong. It’ll futureproof your phone, but nothing more.

stop judging android phones by specifications

Even on phones with the same amount of memory, performance will not always be the same. The speed and responsiveness of a device is dictated to a large extent by how well optimized the operating system is. Very few devices run a stock version of Android. Instead, manufacturers use their own heavily customized versions with extra features and apps.


Some are more efficient than others. Even after a factory reset, the amount of RAM available will differ from one model of phone to another. And either way, Android is very good at managing memory. So unless you’re using a very budget device with limited RAM, you won’t have to worry about it at all Why RAM Boosters and Task Killers Are Bad for Android Do Android RAM boosters really work? Here's what task killers and RAM boosters actually do to your Android device! Read More .


Screen specs are always packed with jargon designed to impress.

There’s OLED and LCD, resolution, pixel density, and so on. And now refresh rate, too. The 120Hz display on the new Razer Phone should deliver a smoother scrolling effect, which could result in improvements to the perceived speed of the phone. Expect more phones to have this in future.

OLED is often regarded as the best display technology due to its greater contrast, dynamic range, and better power efficiency. It’s also a must if you want to use Google’s Daydream VR system. But at the flagship level, the difference between OLED and LCD might not be as great as you’d expect.


Unfortunately, whatever type you’re using, not all displays are made equal.

First, there are potential quality issues. Just recently, we’ve seen the LG V30 screen exhibiting uneven brightness across the entirety of the display on some units.

And on Google’s Pixel 2 XL there has been issues with screen burn in. This is where images that remain on screen for an extended period of time become permanently burnt into the display, and remain visible at all times. Android’s status and navigation bars are prime candidates for causing burn in, but it should take many months or even longer to happen.

And then there are the ways that manufacturers set up their screens. Some choose very bright displays with vivid colors, while others prefer a more natural look. There’s no right or wrong here, it’s all about personal taste. But once you get used to one, the other can be quite off putting.


When it comes to the battery, bigger is normally better. But as always, it’s not quite that simple. A smaller battery doesn’t automatically mean poor battery life if it’s coupled with well optimized software and an energy efficient processor.

stop judging android phones by specifications

But there are so many factors that affect battery life that it’s impossible judge how well a battery will perform from its specs alone. Maybe you’re running one of these power-sapping apps Android Battery Killers: 10 Worst Apps That Drain Phone Battery Get rid of these apps if you want to have decent battery life. Read More . Or maybe you’re in an area with poor network coverage, so your phone needs to use more power to maintain a connection.

If your battery is underperforming, there are lots of things you can try to improve it 10 Proven and Tested Tips to Extend Battery Life on Android Suffering from poor battery life on Android? Follow these tips to get more juice out of your Android device's battery. Read More . And don’t forget that a battery’s capacity diminishes over time. If you find you’re getting an hour less screen time than you were a year ago, that may be completely natural.


The main thing to remember when looking at headline storage specs is that the actual amount of space available to you will always be a lot lower.

stop judging android phones by specifications

Internal storage contains the operating system and pre-installed apps as well, and it’ll often account for a good 10GB (or more). That 32GB phone with no SD card slot might be creaking at the seams after six months of use.

One other overlooked detail about storage is its speed. It’s rarely mentioned on the spec sheets but can have a dramatic effect on the overall performance of your phone. If you wonder why your phone seems slower after several months of use, one factor could be that the performance of your internal storage is degrading 3 Ways to Get More Storage on Android Using a microSD Card microSD cards are a great way of adding storage to your Android device -- but you need to know these tricks! Read More .

The only way to get the lowdown on read/write speeds of phone storage is to check the benchmarks in online reviews.


Specs have always been used to try and sell cameras, and smartphone cameras are not immune to this. Fortunately, smartphones were spared the “megapixel race” — the mistaken belief that more megapixels means better pictures — but there are still plenty of other areas they compete on.

All but the cheapest phone cameras now take decent pictures DSLRs vs. Smartphone Cameras: How Do They Compare? Everyone has a camera in their pocket, so is it worth getting a DSLR? We look at the pros and cons of each to help you make a decision. Read More in good light conditions, so most of the attention falls on their ability to shoot in low light. There are numerous hardware factors that can affect this, but they aren’t always as important as they might seem.

The main one is the aperture. This is the size of the hole between the lens and the sensor, and it controls how much light the camera can draw in (it’s measured as an f-number, and a smaller number represents a larger aperture).

stop judging android phones by specifications

The LG V30 has the largest aperture on a phone at f/1.6. It captures a third more light than the f/1.7 lens on the Galaxy S8. But that doesn’t automatically mean it’s better.

A larger sensor also captures more light. So do larger pixels on the sensor. And so does optical image stabilization, which enables the camera to use slower shutter speeds. It’s very hard to compare these in a meaningful way, so reducing them to numbers on a spec sheet tells you nothing.

Camera Software

But the hardware isn’t even the most important thing in a phone camera. More than ever, it’s the software that is responsible for producing images. The HDR+ mode on Google’s Pixel phones Google Pixel 2 Review: Is This The Best Smartphone Ever? How can Google justify $650 for a smartphone, when the OnePlus 5 sells for $480, or the Motorola G5+ $230. What separates the Google Pixel 2 from its competitors? Read More , for example, takes a rapid burst of shots and blends them together into a single image with high dynamic range and low noise.

The effect is so good that it is able to overcome many of the limitations of the hardware, and surpass those cameras that should be better (based on their specs). Most major phones have similar features, although they don’t always work quite so well.

How the software processes images is also important. Some manufacturers produce pictures that are ultra-sharp with vibrant colors that are punchy but not realistic. Others prefers softer, more natural images. The worst cameras have software that delivers flat, digital looking photos that are uninspiring. In these cases, choosing a better camera app 9 Apps That Help You Get More Out of Your Android Camera Your Android camera is capable of a lot more than your stock camera app is capable of. Read More might help.

Ultimately, the best way to judge a camera is by looking at sample images and deciding for yourself.

Choosing a Phone

Not so long ago, specs were an important indicator of the quality of an Android phone. Each generation of devices was better than the last, and each bump in specs brought tangible benefits.

But that’s no longer true. Smartphone development has largely plateaued. Most phones from $300 upwards will give you an HD display, fast processor, and decent camera. But it’s impossible to discern how these details will translate to real world performance. Some mid-range devices far exceed expectations, some flagships disappoint. The Android specs race is over.

Do you still look at specs when buying a phone? What phone do you have, and has it lived up to your expectations? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Related topics: Android, Smartphone Photography.

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  1. Schout
    November 15, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    When mobile phones were NOT smarphones, we used to have some tests on how the reception was good or not
    Does someone care anymore ?
    you can play with your phone but cannot make calls, nosense !!
    And just about how the reception of 3G or 4G is good ?? or just having a call ??

    Anyway no one really make some tests anymore, just reading results of benchmak software and the specs, et voila, a s****g article is done !!

    My respects to your work guys :-)

  2. Scrub lord
    November 15, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    300$ for an awesome phone? I got myn for 190$ from China. It is as fast as my friends galaxy s7 edge. The only difference is in benchmarks.

  3. Christopher Lee Murray
    November 15, 2017 at 8:44 am

    I just go for the Pixel, because the experience is optimized.

  4. Christopher Lee Murray
    November 15, 2017 at 8:44 am

    I just go for the Pixel line, because it's and optimized experience.

  5. steve
    November 14, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    I'm the opposite to the previous poster - I'm not a power user (whatever that is) nor do I find many specs of real value - eg: much has been written in reviews about XXX being better than YYY because it is 1 mm thinner, but the people go out and buy a case for their phone and/or the same reviewers point fingers when one bends or there are obscure comparisons regarding technical abilities - most of which are BS anyway. My questions on getting a phone - will it make and receive phone calls, answer = YES, so far so good, next, can it go on standby for more than 24 hrs ? YES = good again, finally, can I listen to mp3's and view mp4's on it ? YES = great, all accounted for ! Oh and does it cost less than 200 $'s or £'s ? YES = I'll buy it.

  6. m-p{3}
    November 14, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    I do check specs, mostly because I'm a power user and I want to know what I'm actually paying for and my requirements are specific.

    I also often advise people on what phone would suit their budget along their needs, and specs are much more objective precise than a sales pitch.